I was recently challenged to come up with an effective physical education “elevator pitch.” What would I say in a brief twenty to sixty second speech – the time it takes an elevator to travel 4-5 floors – summarizing what physical education is and why it’s important?
People often ask me, “What do you do for a living?” This is the perfect elevator speech opening! If you’ve taught physical education for a while you know that when you tell people you teach physical education, they immediately reference their own physical education experiences either as a child or as a parent. Sadly, these experiences don’t always reflect positively or even accurately what’s happening in today’s quality physical education programs.
So, when someone asks, “What do you do for a living?” we all need to recognize that we’ve just been given the perfect setup for an elevator pitch to highlight the merits of physical education. What will you say? The success of your pitch depends on your ability to explain what makes physical education important, and in less than a minute, hook your listener.
On the SHAPE America website 50 Million Strong by 2029 is described as follows:
“SHAPE America wants to ensure that by the time today’s preschoolers graduate from high school in 2029, all of America’s students are benefiting from the skills, knowledge and confidence to enjoy healthy, meaningful physical activity.”
I like that our national organization has set a long-term goal that benefits all of America’s youth and requires a commitment from all physical educators across our nation. We live in exciting times where we have the opportunity to make an impact on future generations. So, “Count me in, SHAPE America – I’m planning to do my part toward succeeding with 50 Million Strong!“
What would the perfect physical education teacher do? Have you ever asked yourself this question? Who do you picture when you think of the perfect teacher? Perhaps like me you picture someone made up of a combination of all the great teachers you’ve ever met, all wrapped up into one incredible superhero package?
Years ago, I fleetingly believed I was on top of the teaching game, perhaps even on my way toward superhero status, until I humbly learned the benchmark I was measuring myself against was outdated and missing major components. My students liked me and they loved physical education, I had very few discipline issues, and when they joined other elementary school students in middle school they showed themselves to be competent athletes. All these factors led me to believe I was doing an outstanding job. What burst my bubble? What brought me to my current realization that I will never “arrive” and will always have room for improvement?
My first ah-ha moment came when I started National Board Certification. As I began studying the teaching standards and planning how I would demonstrate competency in each standard, I realized that a quality physical education program consisted of much more than I was doing. This launched a major reflecting and growing process. I hadn’t understood how high the bar was set. I was astonished that teachers were actually capable of not just accomplishing but mastering each of the standards.
Each day as physical education teachers we ask our students to take risks. We ask them to move in front of their peers, join group activities, and publically answer questions. Depending on their physical skill levels, students either see moving in physical education as an opportunity or as a huge threat. As children become older and move through middle and high school they are often even asked to take the risk of undressing in public in gymnasium locker rooms. Rarely do we as educators acknowledge these risks.
At a recent physical education conference I noticed most conference attendees were willing to take the risk of joining in physical activities. However, at a conference last winter it was a different scene. The only activity movers were a few brave participants plus some college students who were required to participate. This situation got me thinking, “What was the difference? And how does this apply to other PE teaching situations?”